Common Problems

Topics will be added from time to time. So far there are dangling participles and reflexive pronouns

By the by, The mother lode of all grammar hotlines has links to most others.

Dangling Participles

Example: Thinking it was open, the door was really closed.
Analysis: Who is thinking? Not the door but some unmentioned person.
Alternate: Thinking the door was open, I found it was really closed.
Example: Pushed by the fierce competition in the field and stirred by brilliant innovations, the storage capacity per unit area has grown exponentially for the last 40 years.
Analysis: Who/what was "pushed" and "stirred?" Not the storage capacity of batteries.
Alternate: Pushed by fierce competition, the battery industry has brilliant innovated over the past 40 years to increase the storage capacity per unit area exponentially.
Example: Using fast electronics, the time it takes a pulse to pass through the condensate and into a detector is measured.
Analysis: Who/what is using the fast electronics.
Alternate: Fast electronics [that is coupled to both laser source and detector] measures the time for pulse to transverse the condensate.
Comment: might omit material in [ ]'s

Reflexive Pronouns

While not generally used in scientific writing, the reflexive pronoun myself can appear in, for examples, letters and descriptions of accomplishments.

A reflexive pronoun is used when the actor and goal are the same thing. E.g., He washed himself.

A reflexive pronoun is used as the object in a sentence when the word to which the reflexive pronoun refers is the subject. [What a mouthful!] E.g., I am giving myself a raise. Here myself refers back to the subject and is also the object of the verb.

Finally a reflexive pronoun is used as an intensifier, most often in conversation. For example, suppose you were talking to a mentor about a recent job interview and were extolling the person you would like to work for when the vibrator of your cell phone perturbed you. Looking at it and recognizing the number, you exclaimed: "Himself is on my cell phone" as you fled to the office to learn if you had a job offer.